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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Two remarkable women you've never heard of

Gloria Tramontin Struck then and now... still ridin'
Remarkable Woman No. 1: This is Biker Babe Gloria Tramontin Struck, then... and now. She's still draws turns heads but for very different reasons.

Her father started a motorcycle business 100 years ago in New Jersey and Gloria was literally born in the business. But you couldn't get her to ride one. "I'm not going to do it," she said, "and you can't make me."

That is, not until she was 16. Now, at age 90, you can't get her to stop. At an age where most men are dead and most women require nursing care, she plans to ride cross-country as a 100th birthday gift to herself.

She has owned three Indians and 11 Harley-Davidsons and has been riding long distances to races and events all over the United States and Europe. She has ridden to the Sturgis Motorcycle rally in South Dakota from New Jersey every year since 2003 and is in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum's Hall of Fame. She still rides to the annual rally in Daytona as well.

Aside: I've been to Sturgis (pop. 6,627) during Bike Week and it is an event to behold. In 2015 the Rally attracted 739,000 enthusiasts with a remarkable SDDOT traffic count of over 1 million, mostly motorcycles. The event, though no church choir, is relatively peaceable, fascinating and welcomed, as is the revenue it brings to South Dakota. On the roads around Sturgis during Bike Week, motorcycles easily outnumber everything else on the road. You can read more about it here.

Gloria draws attention wherever she goes. On her latest Sturgis run, "I'm not exaggerating," she says. "Every time we stopped for gas, every time we stopped for something to eat, people were watching for us. One woman came up and said, 'Excuse me, is your name Gloria?' I said yes. She turned to her friends and yelled, 'Hey, It's her! It's her! It's Gloria!'

"We had three days to get to Sturgis--close to 1800 miles one way. We spent so much time talking to people and taking pictures with them, we had to ride 80 mph to catch up on time. And it happened all over again on the way back.

"When I'm 100 years old, I plan on riding across country on two wheels. I believe it'll be the first time anyone's done it--male or female. I'm very active and I love new challenges. I always tell people: Live your dreams."

I wouldn't bet against her doing it.

Remarkable Woman No. 2:

The best free-throw shooter in the world doesn't play in the NBA and is not a man. Today's best free-throw shooter is Elena Delle Donne, the 6-foot-5 star of the WNBA's Chicago Sky.

And she's more than that. She won the league's MVP award this season averaging 23.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and two blocked shots per game. Yeah, that's good.

Last season, Delle Donne sank 207 of her 218 free throws--95 percent. Over the last three seasons, including playoffs, she has made 94.1 percent of all her free throws. No one in the NBA or in college, male or female, does it better. (The NBA average for the last 20 years or so has been around 75 percent. Notable stars have fared far less. One of the greatest, Shaquille O'Neil, missed 3520 free throws in his career--about half of his attempts--and was so bad at it that the opposition would foul him on purpose to keep him from scoring. They called this defensive move 'Hack-a-Shaq.' It was so popular it became a crossword clue. And Shaq makes millions more than Elena.

When Delle Donne was 12, she hit two free throws to tie a game with 0.1 second left on the clock in the national Amateur Athletic Union baskeball championships. Her team went on to win that game and the national title. "In my mind nothing will be as bad as that," she said.

Under her dad's tutelage, when she was 6 or 7 she practiced on a lower basket to develop technique. And she learned quite well. Her free throw routine is to find the dot or nail that marks the middle of most free throw lanes. She lines her right foot up on that spot bounces the ball three times, places her index finger on the ball's air pinhole, bends her knees slightly and makes an L-shape with her shooting arm.

"From there I just lift and flick, and a little bit of ankle pop." SWISH! ... time after time after time.

The wonder is, why can't basketball players who earn millions and millions get better at something that is free and the second easiest shot in basketball? Ted St. Martin says anyone can do better. As a coach of the practice, he guarantees 90 percent. And he should know.

St. Martin, now 80, holds the world record for consecutive free-throws: 5,221 in a little over seven hours at the line! (Wow. In my freshman in high school basketball career as a bench sitter , I made one... and missed one, so I'm only 50 percent myself.)

So in theory, any good athlete can do lots of things with practice. Though I don't know about that. Ever watch the talented Charles Barkley hit a golf ball? Enjoy.

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